Maplewood police made it clear that they are uneasy about having their actions filmed, as they filed a temporary injunction against the city’s body camera law on Monday.
The injunction filed on Monday centered around some choice word play. An attorney representing the department argued that the body cameras placed the officers under “surveillance,” while a judge said the devices are more of a “supervision” tool.
“I’m using the term ‘supervise,’ not ‘surveil.’ … Supervisors are hired — that’s why these positions exist — to monitor the work of employees,” said Ramsey County District Judge Jennifer Frisch.
The injunction was filed over a clause in the current system which requires sergeants to randomly pick a couple of videos each month to review in order to ensure department policies are being followed.
“They’re being surveiled, and I would call that a harm,” said Tim Louris, the lawyer for the department.
“How is that a harm?” Frisch asked.
“It’s a change in working conditions,” replied Louris.
Missing The Basic Point
Louris argued that the provision should have been covered during the collective bargaining process, and since it wasn’t included, it is causing harm to the officers.
“Isn’t that something supervisors … have the right to do anyway?” Frisch asked.
Louris argued that the body cameras were more pervasive than normal, and therefore have crossed some sort of line. However, just because the officers are uncomfortable doesn’t mean it should trump the need for accuracy and transparency. Every professional in the workforce has at one time or another run into a situation in their career that has resulted in, as Louris said, “a change in working conditions.” Whether that change was a new manager that increased monthly sales goals or a reduction in the number of PTO days you could carry over each year, that change may not have been ideal, but ultimately it was something that you needed to learn to deal with because it ensured that you were performing your best and were’t abusing the system.
The same goes for body cameras. Cameras have been shown to keep people – both officers and civilians – on their best behaviors, and if people can pick and choose when to turn on their cameras or which videos they can watch before writing their reports, they can abuse the system. It’s unfortunate that both sides can’t come to a simple agreement that protects the interests of those they are in charge of protecting – the citizens.